Price paid: $ 249.99
Purchased from: The Laboratory, Bellmawr, NJ
Sound — 9
The Duncan Designed SC-101s do a good job, I like them better than the Classic Vibe SC pickups (personal taste, these are a little raspier-sounding to me). They sound great thru my Tubescreamer/Pignose 7-100 combination of choice. Thru the AC30 Pod Farm model I record with, it's Rainbow-era Blackmore all the way, as fits the look of the guitar. I also like the Big Muff Pi or DS-1 for distortion tones, and this Strat loves all of them. There are higher-end pickups to be sure, but these perform admirably and with very little noise.
Overall Impression — 9
I like to play rock, of the punk, blues, and metal varieties depending on how I feel from one day to the next and who I'm playing with. Been playing for 20 years (Jesus I'm getting old) and when I became a casualty of the Bush Recession 4 years ago, I had to sell my Yngwie Strat while I was between jobs. I'm not going to tell you this is to the level of that USA Malmsteen Strat, but it's damn close, and the distance in quality is a hell of a lot less than the difference in price. If Fender offered these VM's and Classic Vibes in a wider selection of colors, they'd never sell another Fender-branded instrument again. This current crop of Squiers is that good. The Squier Vintage Modified 70's Stratocaster is a hell of a value and a great instrument to play. I might get the black one just to put some buckers in it cause why not.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I keep hearing about how soft basswood is, so time will tell on that one. Feels solid to me, but I can see the screws potentially stripping the wood if it is that soft. Strap buttons and trem claw screws are in there pretty solid though, no complaints there.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Setup was good, everything matched the inspection tag the guitar came with. I made my own adjustments, but that was just to get the instrument to my taste. Finish was perfect, fingerboard and fretwork was spot-on, everything checked out. A testament to the genius design of this instrument, that they can put it together for so little and with budget materials, and it still plays and sounds like a pro-level guitar.
Features — 8
Crafted in Indonesia, 2011. Classic 70's Strat dimensions, 21-fret CBS-style large headstock, Vintage tuners with the little hole in the bottom to stick your string end in so they don't look all ragged and poke you in your eyes. Useful feature they never shoulda got rid of. Locking tuners are unnecessary if you wind your pegheads right and stretch your strings. Basswood body, Vintage White (Banana Pudding) finish. Duncan Designed SC-101 pickups, 5-way switching, Vol-Tone-Tone controls (no Tone control on bridge pickup, just balls-out all the time. They gave me a gig bag with it cause they're cool guys. It's a perfectly proportioned and well-made Strat that feels Fender all they way. Neck feels right, in a way the SX Strat copy I traded in didn't. Only gave it an 8 because of the cheapo pot-metal skinny trem-block that I replaced as soon as I brought it home. But all Squier Strats have that block so I won't hold it against this model.